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California Genealogy and History Archives

Biographies
of
Sacramento County

 

HON. FREDERICK COX

Any narrative of the pioneer experiences of Mr. Cox in California would present a recapitulation more or less complete of the hardships and privations endured by all early settlers who, like himself, had been allured to the west through visions of its unknown opportunities. In contrast with the majority of the emigrants, he did not seek the gold mines. Fascinating as seemed the occupation, he did not blind his judgment to the fact that of the thousands who sought the hidden wealth of the country few found what they longed for with such keen anticipation. To him there seemed more of safety although less of allurement to the old business regime and he therefore sought employment in town. While at first there seemed little material return from his efforts, eventually he gained a competency. Retiring from commercial activities he gave his time to the enjoyment of social intercourse with his family and friends and to the maintenance of an intelligent interest in all public affairs. When in 1906 death terminated his earthly labors, there was brought to an honorable end an association of considerably more than fifty years with the great state of California and an intimate identification with many movements for the permanent welfare of the people. A strong, helpful character passed into eternity, a character that had irradiated a beneficial influence upon the community and had proved the governing element of a long career.

Descended from an honorable Anglo-Saxon ancestry, Frederick Cox was born in Somersetshire, England, in 1828, and during boyhood accompanied members of the family to the United States. After six months in New York City, removal was made to Milwaukee, Wis., where the father secured work as a buyer and bookkeeper for a wholesale and retail meat firm. As soon as he heard of the discovery of gold in California the young man desired to start for the west, but lack of funds deterred him until the spring of 1850. Meanwhile he had worked regularly and saved his earnings, so that he had ample for the expenses of the trip. With a party of six he started across the plains and crossed the Missouri river at the present site of Omaha, then called Winter Quarters because the Mormons had spent a winter there during their removal to Utah. The little expedition had the good fortune to secure a guide-book published by the Mormons, which contained full particulars concerning the route. It was thus possible for them to reach Salt Lake without any delay or difficulty, but they were less fortunate from that place to their destination. The guidebook for that part of the journey was inaccurate and unreliable. However, they were able to reach Eldorado county in the autumn of the year and at Ringgold they separated, first pitching their tent in the middle of the street and investing their entire capital, $7, in a banquet of beefsteak, molasses and bread. The members of the party with the exception of Mr. Cox had practically exhausted their funds by the time they left Salt Lake, so he had been forced to pay the expenses of all for a time, but at the banquet, when called upon for a talk, he delivered the first oration of his life when he tersely told his comrades it was now "Everyone for himself and the devil for the hindmost.

It being the desire of all but Mr. Cox to engage in mining the six men betook themselves to the store of Sargent Bros., and being granted a limited credit procured the necessary tools and started out in search of gold. Not caring to accompany them, Mr. Cox hired out to a butcher in Ringgold at $250 per month. After two months he bought the business, which he conducted for nine months. Upon selling out he proceeded to the Carson river in Nevada and with a partner engaged in buying horses and cattle from immigrants. These were then fattened and brought over the mountains to California, where they were sold at a fair profit. During the fall of 1851 Mr. Cox started a meat market at Salmon Falls, Eldorado county, which at the time was one of the liveliest mining camps in the state. With Charles Bonstell as a partner he remained there until the spring of 1852, when he moved to Shingle Springs, in the same county. At first he con- ducted a meat market alone, but later he sold an interest to C. W. Clarke, and they carried on the business for two years, selling out at a fair profit. Afterward they spent six months in the east buying stock and on their return in the fall of 1854 they opened a meat market at Grass Valley, Nevada county. Later they sold the business in order to give their entire attention to the handling of stock. As their herds increased and lands became scarce in the vicinity of Sacramento they found themselves obliged to seek ranges elsewhere. By successive purchases they acquired vast tracts in the counties of Sutter, Yuba, Tulare, Kern and San Luis Obispo, and over those broad acres the cattle roamed in large herds.

While gaining prominence in business and acquiring a reputation for never having failed in any enterprise, Mr. Cox also wielded a wide influence in the Democratic party. As the nominee of his party he was elected state senator in 1882 and served through two regular and two special sessions, after which he declined further nomination, although he was the choice of the Democrats of the district. On three different occasions ho was appointed a member of the state board of agriculture and in that capacity he proved efficient, intelligent and patriotic, working strenuously and incessantly for the promotion of the farming interests of the state. During November of 1857 he married Miss Jennie A. Holdridge, of Eldorado county, who was born in Cortland county, N. Y., and who survives him, remaining at the family residence, No. 2020 T street, which he had erected after his retirement from business. They were the parents of two sons and three daughters, of whom one son and a daughter died in childhood, while the other son, Crawford, was killed by the explosion of a gas engine. The surviving members of the family are Mrs. Jennie Peltier and Mrs. John E. Short, both residents of Sacramento. 


Source:
History of Sacramento County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: William L. Willis
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1913)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011